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dragon; there, the envenomed sting of death, the king of terrors; here, the ponderous ordnance that thundered from the seven hills; there, the shivered spears of many false prophets and seducing spirits, together with their tattered banners; and from year to year the number of these broken weapons swells and multiplies.
But contemplate also upon this tower the trusty swords of those who once fought the battles of Zion, and to whom, as instruments of the living God, we owe the preservation of our light, and the maintenance of the true sanctuary; behold how they bristle on the battlements, for the joy and consolation of us their remote descendants, and for our encouraging examples ! Here, the sword of Noah, the preacher of righteousness; there, of Moses, the meek and much tried man; here, the armour of Daniel ; there, of Judas the maccabee; here, of Paul, who fought the good fight; there, of Peter, divinely surnamed a rock; here, the helmets, breastplates, and other equipments of the reformers, a Huss and a Wickliff, a Luther, a Calvin, and a Zwinglius, all zealous for the truth and for the honour of God, all valiant defenders of the citadel of Zion.
And behold! amongst the swords of these spiritual heroes, one which presents itself with peculiar effulgence to the eye ; one which has wrought mightily for the glory of the kingdom of God, and was as sharp and piercing as any could be in arduous and evil times. Who once handled that noble weapon ? It was Elijah the Tishbite; a man mighty in word and deed, and in miracles besides; who broke forth like a fire, and whose word burnt like a torch, and who was so eminently distinguished by Divine grace, that, when the Lord of glory himself appeared upon earth, the jews said, “ It is Elias !
The life of Elijah may be made an abundant source of animation and encouragement, of strength and refreshment to our faith ; we intend therefore to notice the history of this man of God in a series of discourses. We shall accompany him at one time into the streets of the royal city, and to the prince's throne ; at another, into the solitary wilderness; to the public and tempestuous scene of his labours, and into the quiet chamber and to the humble couch watered with his tears; and learn of him how the Lord guides his people, and how his imparted strength is perfected in weakness.
May the Spirit of the Lord God bless and seal these our meditations, imparting to them such a life and power,
many a weary
heart may be refreshed, and that the feeble knees of many may be strengthened!
1 KINGS XVIL 1
And Elijah the 'Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
Thus commences the brief record of the prophet Elijah, abruptly setting us at once in the midst of his life. At this very first mention of him we see the whole man living and moving, in spirit and in conduct. This manner of his introduction to our notice is itself remarkable. In the preceding chapters, the inspired historian had, as it were, dug through the wall, and discovered to us the horrible abominations in which Israel, during those melancholy times, was so deeply immersed. Clouds and thick darkness cover the whole land; the images of Baalim and Ashtaroth fearfully gleam on every side; idolatrous temples and heathen altars occupy the sacred soil; every hill smokes with their sacrifices, every vale resounds with the blasphemous yells of a cruel priesthood. The people drink in iniquity like water, and sport in shameless rites around their idols. Alas! alas ! how is the glory of Israel departed ! how is Abraham's seed no longer discernible ! their light is become darkness, the salt has lost its savour, the fine gold has become dim! And now, while darkness reigns throughout the land; while no cheering star gleams through the universal blackness, on a sudden the history changes, with the words, “ AND ELIJAH SAID.”—The man seems as if dropped from heaven into the midst of this awful night-piece, without father, without mother, without descent, as is written of Melchisedec. Lo, he stands forth in the midst of the desolation, but not without his God. Almost the only grain of salt in the general corruption, the only leaven that is to leaven the whole mass ;—and that we may learn at once who he is, he commences his career with an unheard-of act of faith, by closing, in the name of his Lord, the heavens over Israel, and changing the firmament into iron and brass. Thanks be to God! the night is no longer so horrible, for a man of God now appears, like the rising moon, in the midst of it.
Let us meditate for a few moments on what is here related of Elijah: I. His name and circumstances; II. His spiritual character ; III. The prophetic denunciation with which he comes forward into notice.
I. His name is Elijah. It is no useless particularity to attach importance to the names of sacred personages, and to inquire into their meaning. The names of Scripture characters
were often given by God himself. Such names served to convey a divine promise or assurance, or taught some rule of life, or carried some divine memorial, or indicated the character and predominant disposition of the persons who received them, or expressed some divine calling. Thus the name of Noah signified a comforter ; the name of Abraham, a father of many nations. Names were to the people like memoranda, and like the bells on the garments of the priests, reminding them of the Lord and his government, and furnishing matter for a variety of salutary reflections. To the receivers of them they ministered consolation and strength, warning and encouragement; and to others they served to attract the attention and heart to God.
I am aware, that to make things of this kind the subject of any religious consideration at present, is to expose ourselves to the imputation of weakness and superstition. How few there are, even of professed christians, who practically believe that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, that God's providence extends to matters the most minute, and that he is often specially glorified in the “ day of small things !” But he who possesses this childlike faith, accounting nothing as really little in God's sight, realizing his heavenly Father's gracious presence in his house and garden, under his vine and his fig-tree-blessed indeed is that man ! he possesses much joy and peace, and divine delight at all times; wherever he is, he beholds the traces, and hears the voice of God.
The name of this wondrous man was ELIJAH—that is, being interpreted, “My God of power," or, “ Jehovah is my strength." A
great and excellent name, and he bore it in deed and in truth. He was a man like thee or me; nothing in himself, but the strength of God was his; he could do nothing, and yet deeds of omnipotence proceeded from his hands; he lay in the dust, a worm, but was commissioned with Divine authority and power ; he was a royal personage, who had power to open and shut heaven, to bid the dead to live, the living to die, and to hold judgment upon the enemies of God. Thus he might justly be called “ Elijah.”
And is the force of this name merely, “ God: strengthens me?” Certainly not; but rather, “God himself is my strength.” Here is a distinction with a difference. It is not the same thing to say, “God holds his shield before me;” and to
say, “God himself is my shield.” If he holds his shield before me, not a hair of my head can be touched; and the evil I dread shall not come nigh me.
But if God himself be my shield, I then lift up my head in the raging storm, as under a serene sky, and am a partaker of the happiness of God as much
in the midst of tribulation, as out of it. Peter, when released from prison, when his chains fell from his hands, and the prison doors opened to him of their own accord, might shout for joy as he went on, and say,
- The shield of the Lord is around me.' But Stephen, when stoned to death by his enemies, might cry out, with the countenance of an angel, “God is my
shield !” It is not one and the same thing, my friends, to say, “God gives me peace,” and to say, “God is my peace.” If God gives me peace, the proud waves of my soul subside, the storm is allayed, the conflagration is extinguished, a still small voice, as from the top of Horeb, breathes through my spirit, and the spices diffuse their precious odours in my garden. But if the tempest should still
rage in the firmament of my animal soul ; if it should thunder and lighten in all directions ; if conscience accuse, the flesh be rebellious, my thoughts reproach me, and the fiery darts of the wicked one be hurled through my recoiling spirit ;—if I am troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; if
, lifted in the chariot of faith above the tumult, I hold fast by the glorious sufferings of my Lord; if I save myself in the recollection, that He is the God, “yea, and amen,” keeping covenant with a thousand generations, and lay up the weather-worn and shattered bark of my mind in that haven of faith, the free grace of God, casting anchor under the rocky shelter of the unchangeable promises——then, yes then, Jehovah is my peace.
The same difference of meaning applies to the expressions, “God strengthens me,” and “God is my strength.” If God strengthen me, then, through his grace, I experience within me a Divine power, by which I can accomplish something, and feel myself arrayed and armed with a courageous and joyful spirit ; I smile at partition-walls that would confine me, and at barricades that would exclude me, and I fear nothing. But if, finding nothing but weakness in my soul, and trembling at the sight of the danger that surrounds me, and at the immense mountains of difficulties which lie before me ;-yet, with all the shrinking of nature, I advance with holy boldness to meet them, hoping an against reason and feeling, in simple faith on Him who is eternally near, who will go with me, and to whom it is an easy thing to rebuke, with a word, the ocean's waves, and to thrash the mountains so that they shall become a plain ; and if I walk by faith on the waves of nature's terrors, destitute of courage and yet a hero, out of weakness made strong, and out of despondency valiant—then I can exult and say, strength;” and my feet are placed upon a rock. What a wonderful thing is faith, which lays hold of a power to do all things, through Christ strengthening us; which brings man, who is a worm, into fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and is the means whereby strength is ordained, and praise perfected out of the mouth of babes and sucklings!
66 God is my
Elijah owed not his greatness to high birth or station, or a native place of renown. He was born, as we see from the text, among the mountains of Gilead, on the other side Jordan; a region which, though famous for its plants, and its balms and spices, was mostly inhabited by blind idolaters, and overspread with the abominations of the amorites. It lay not far from the country of the gergesenes, where, in the time of our Lord, the devils entered into the swine; and it may be supposed that, unless from extreme necessity, no israelite would take up
his dwelling among these mountains. It was probably in some poor abode, possibly in a wretched banished jewish family, that Elijah was born and brought up. His birth-place, Tishbe, may be considered as only a mean and obscure village in the mountains ; and the prophet in his childhood could not have known much of schools, or seats of learning, or of worldly grandeur. But it has constantly been the way of our God in all ages, to take those, by whom he purposes to do great things, rather out of the dust than from off the throne, that all may see how every thing depends upon his choice, and know that flesh and blood have not wrought his mighty works, but that to him alone belongs the glory. Hence it was that he thus prepared, in Gilead, the balm which should recover the health of the daughter of Zion; and in that den of murderers, the country of the amorites, he raised up the man, by whose instrumentality he purposed to beat down altars, execute judgment upon kings, and destroy the priests of Baal.
If we translate the word “ T'ishbite," it means a CONVERTER; and how well does this name befit the whole life and vocation of our prophet !
Elijah enters on the stage of history with a word of faith and power :
“ And Elijah the Tishbite said;"_and where was it he spake, and to whom, and when ? Here surely is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Ever since the death of Solomon the evil of idolatry had been coming in like a flood, and no barrier could any longer avail to keep out the torrent of general corruption. The despotic declaration of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, upon coming to the throne, that if his father scourged the people with whips, he would chastise them with scorpions, had occasioned such a disaffection that the ten tribes had re